Highway to Hell

Exactly 40 years ago, the rock band AC/DC released a song with the same title. Nothing special per se, but it has a beat that is easily remembered. It seems that the Philippines was taken by this song, its lyrics and mainly the guitar riff, quite seriously. Here we are in a country that is in an upbeat for build, build, build. Killer highways are sprouting everywhere. But that is not all. Most of these roads are neither really connecting people nor bringing in essential goods. These new roads and the road widening of existing arteries are planned for our machines. They are destroying the social fabric of the communities which live along these roads; literally cutting through the lives of people living there. It is near impossible to cross these roads when speeding cars pass by. More so, the houses that were built and left along the ridiculously wide roads are barely hugging the road, leaving often less than a foot of pedestrian lane. It never ceases to amaze me how the Philippines with such a gentle population and being the number 1 caregiver of the world is investing so much in stuff that accommodate their machines. Machines that often mow away lives. Even if you would try to brave these roads, walking along it is difficult since almost all trees have been cut. The heat reflected from the pavement makes it impossible to beat the whatever breeze is blowing through. The tree-cutting that has been happening all over the country has resulted to massive decline in carbon sequestration. In times when we should be seeking more avenues and solutions towards breaking free from fossil fuels, here is a country doing its utmost best to be number one in the realm of business as usual: making roads for fossil-fuel-guzzling machines, cutting trees which will no longer be replanted along the same roads and for the people who need them, adding coal-fired power plants and unrestricted planning or lack of zoning so unbridled high-rise construction get to be easily approved. All of these are leading to a poorer quality of life, a loss of environment and greater threats to our already very vulnerable biodiversity. What’s wrong with the planners of this country? The only mantra we hear is that it will be good for the economy and most probably their actions will feed their corrupt practices of gaining for personal benefits. The same Philippine news agency says that after the road is built, there will be an economic boom in the area. What boom are they talking about? More pollution, more horrible working conditions, less community, more wealth for the rich, more buildings, more cement. I can’t follow the reasoning of the economic planners except that I see through their crooked thoughts, spilled over benefits, corrupt tastemakers and fake news which make many believe in the benefits of something that is already doomed before its birth.

Nobody is investing in the things that really matter. It has been 100% business as usual. Everyone in government, the contractors and landowners are scrambling to get a piece of the pie, ensure some quick fixes, all of which will be devastating for the environment. So, what is really frightening is that they are yet planning another highway to hell in the already congested Metro Manila. And mind you, this will happen in the last open and tree-filled spaces of the metropolis. Trees will fall, cement will rise. Hello climate? Here comes a road that has been, according to the official Philippine news agency, in the doldrums for over 60 years.  It will travel from Ayala’s UP town center, through its water concessionaire’s area and at the back of its Ayala heights to cut through one of the last few remaining green spaces in Quezon city: the Balara filters and the areas along the Marikina river towards the Batasan road. Ayala for sure has its crooked corporate brains set on this road as it will make the prices of their lands soar. For less than 6 kilometers, 6-lane highway, I truly wonder who will really benefit from this. The road will be wrecking itself through communities and tearing up trees and other vegetation to get the economy booming. What kind of booming are they talking about? The development framework is clearly not changing and probably has never changed from what it was. What is currently happening to our economic managers and political clowns is scary, close to everything we should have abandoned long time ago if we want to prepare this country for the changing climate. I hope that the mere thought of this road will wake us up and get some common sense in all of us. Forget focusing on the small things like the plastic straws if we can’t see what’s happening right in front of our very eyes. Soon we will be living in a cement garden, along a newly planned horror highway that will lead us straight to hell. For my part it can rot in the doldrums where it resided for over 60 years. And please let the trees stay. We need their oxygen, more than your perceived economic boom, which will be vulnerable for extinction when this town of 20 million people can no longer sustain life or what it means to be alive.

Let us sing another song together. Anyway after 40 years we need to sing to a different tune.


Beerst 2019

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